SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

We alone can guard secularism: Left
New Delhi, March 24
Enraged at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks that the Left had proved a regressive force, top communists leaders today cited recent history to predict Manmohan Singh’s and his party’s defeat in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Poll Promises
Cong pledges rice, wheat at Rs 3 a kg
New Delhi, March 24
Releasing its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress today promised, among other things, a law ensuring 25 kg of rice or wheat per month to the poor at Rs 3 per kg.

Advani bats for strong Centre
NDA’s Prime Ministerial candidate LK Advani declared here on Tuesday his intention to restore the supremacy of the Centre over the states, if returned to power. He was addressing the first election rally after the announcement of poll schedule to introduce to the residents of Mathura the candidature of Jayant Singh whose father Ajit Singh, heading the RLD, is an alliance partner of the BJP.

Varun Episode
BJP cannot afford to follow EC’s advice?
Lucknow, March 24
BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani and senior leaders Murli Manohar Joshi and Vinay Katiyar have been chargesheeted for more heinous crimes than Pilibhit candidate Varun Gandhi.

EC allocates states to poll observers
Chandigarh, March 24
The Election Commission (EC) of India today allocated states to the IAS officers who had been posted as poll observers for the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections.



Nicole Kidman in Udaipur for the shooting of a film.
Nicole Kidman in Udaipur for the shooting of a film. — PTI


EARLIER STORIES

Mulayam in soup for ‘threatening’ Mainpuri DM
Lucknow, March 24
Barely had the controversy regarding the Holi revelry settled down that Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is yet in another soup for threatening Mainpuri DM.

PMK-UPA break up appears imminent
New Delhi, March 24
The saga of setbacks for the UPA continues, with Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) now preparing to break away from the alliance after seat-sharing talks with the Congress failed in Tamil Nadu. The PMK would be following in the RJD, the LJP and the SP’s footsteps if it abandoned the alliance.

Jaya taking U-turn on Lankan issue: Karunanidhi
Chennai, March 24
Accusing AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa of following MDMK leader Vaiko’s Sri Lankan policy, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has alleged that she had taken a U-turn in the issue for electoral gains.





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We alone can guard secularism: Left
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 24
Enraged at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks that the Left had proved a regressive force, top communists leaders today cited recent history to predict Manmohan Singh’s and his party’s defeat in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Sharply rebutting the Congress’ insinuations that the Left had prevented the country’s forward movement, the four communist parties today said it was their contribution alone that made the so-called historic legislations like the RTI, NREGA and Tribal and Forest Dwellers Act pro-people.

“We worked to negate the Congress’ anti-people policies by preventing privatisation of profitable PSUs and dilution of equity in the insurance and banking sectors. We protected the hard-earned pension and PF funds of people from being put into speculative markets.

We opposed policies that ensured India’s insulation from the onslaught of global economic meltdown,” said CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan, whom the Left Front had fielded today to mount a defence following Congress’ scathing criticism of the communist policies in their manifesto.

Dismissive of Manmohan Singh’s projection as the PM, the Left also said history had shown how people who were projected as leaders before elections eventually lost. “Projecting someone before hand does not mean he becomes the PM. L.K. Advani was the BJP’s prime ministerial face in 2004 but the party lost; Vasundhara Raje and BJP lost in Rajasthan so did V.K. Malhotra in Delhi,” said Bardhan, in a rather simplistic analysis of history.

He was quick dig at the UPA, which had several prime ministerial hopefuls, including RJD and LJP chiefs Lalu Yadav and Ramvilas Paswan, respectively. “We are not after personalities and will choose our Prime Minister through consensus post elections”, said the leader, who earlier projected the Left as the sole custodian of India’s secularism, national sovereignty and independent foreign policy.

Interestingly, the four communist parties termed as their “strength” Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s remarks that the Third Front was a “recipe for chaos.”

The communists further took strong exception to the Congress’s remark in the manifesto that the Left Front had encouraged the BJP’s electoral growth. “We have never relaxed our fight against the communal forces.

In the states where we are in power, we have routed the BJP, whereas the Congress has not been able to defeat the BJP in the latter’s strongholds. Let the Congress judge itself and remember how it voted along side the BJP to dislodge the V.P. Singh government and how it took a dubious stand on the Babri Masjid issue,” thundered a largely-reticent CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, who made the first pitch today for a “stronger Left”.

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Poll Promises
Cong pledges rice, wheat at Rs 3 a kg
Vibha Sharma and Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 24
Releasing its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress today promised, among other things, a law ensuring 25 kg of rice or wheat per month to the poor at Rs 3 per kg.

Seeking to position itself as the party “best equipped” to deal decisively with the challenges of terrorism and economic recession, the Congress said it would pursue the “middle path” in the two fields if it was voted to power.

The manifesto was released by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other party leaders. Though the party failed to stitch up seat-sharing arrangements with its key allies in the UPA, the party patted itself on the back for the “tangible and visible” accomplishments of the Congress-led coalition during its five years in office.

The manifesto pledges even greater impetus to empowerment of weaker sections, minorities and women. It also proposes to launch a voluntary national youth corps for youth (18-23 years) to serve up to two years in constructive activities, for which they would also be suitably compensated.

But what has caught the imagination of the supporters of the party is its promise to enacting a National Food security Act that guarantees access to sufficient food for all, particularly the most vulnerable sections of the society. It is being considered as populist a step as was the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Under the law, every BPL family, whether in rural or urban areas, would be entitled to subsidised rice or wheat. Subsidised community kitchens would also be set up in all cities for homeless and migrants with the support of the Union government.

The Congress, which extended interest relief to farmers, possibly sees the proposed food security act in the country of millions of food-insecure people as a potential vote-winner.

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Advani bats for strong Centre
Faraz Ahmad writes from Mathura

NDA’s Prime Ministerial candidate LK Advani declared here on Tuesday his intention to restore the supremacy of the Centre over the states, if returned to power.

He was addressing the first election rally after the announcement of poll schedule to introduce to the residents of Mathura the candidature of Jayant Singh whose father Ajit Singh, heading the RLD, is an alliance partner of the BJP. It is widely acknowledged in the BJP circles that the party has come into electoral reckoning in UP only after aligning with Ajit Singh. Proudly flaunting the impresive gathering, Ajit himself subtly suggested this saying, “The enthusisam you find here can be found in the entire western UP.”

Jat belt of west UP is considered Ajit Singh’s stronghold. He also told a beaming Advani, “Now, UP will regain its old status of making Prime Ministers by helping you become the PM,” clearly implying that it was his support which might see the BJP through and also Advani as the PM. Notwithstanding this and the fact that Advani himself had described the BJP as a more responsive coalition leader, Advani was visibly disdainful of the growing clout of regional satraps.

He repeated his attacks on Manmohan Singh as a weak PM. But his reasons this time were that a weak PM led to emboldening and strengtheing of regional satraps and he cited the example of UP CM and BSP supremo Mayawati.

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Varun Episode
BJP cannot afford to follow EC’s advice?
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 24
BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani and senior leaders Murli Manohar Joshi and Vinay Katiyar have been chargesheeted for more heinous crimes than Pilibhit candidate Varun Gandhi.

If the party had conceded to the Election Commission (EC) of India’s advice to drop Varun Gandhi for his inflammatory speeches, the next logical demand could have been to stop these veterans from contesting as well, a risk the party could ill afford.

According to Zafaryaab Jilani, the lawyer who has been relentlessly fighting the Babri Masjid demolition cases before the CBI court in Lucknow and the special court at Rae Bareli, said under the existing law of the land Varun couldn’t be debarred from contesting he elections.

The IPC Sections under which cases were filed against Varun on the complaint by the ECI are 505(2), 295 (A) and, 153 A. Case no 2252 of 2006 for crime no 198 of 1992 is pending before the special court in Rae Bareli against these three BJP candidates and five others, including Umar Bharti and VHP leaders Ashok Singhal, Acharya Giriraj Kishore and Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and Sadhvi Ritambhara.

They are facing charges under IPC Sections 153A, 153B, 505,147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapons) and 149.

While Varun is allegedly guilty of just 505(2) these leaders have been charge sheeted under all sections of 505 pertaining to statements conducing to public mischief.

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EC allocates states to poll observers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 24
The Election Commission (EC) of India today allocated states to the IAS officers who had been posted as poll observers for the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections.

Punjab: Seema Jain, Mandeep Singh Sandhu, Anurag Verma have been deployed in Andhra Pradesh; PS Aujala in Arunachal Pradesh; SS Gujjar, B Sarkar and HIS Grewal in Bihar; RK Gupta and Raminder Singh in Chhattisgarh; VK Sharma, K Siva Prasad and S Karuna Raju in Kerala; Hussan Lal and BC Thakur in Maharasthra; KS Bains in Meghalaya; Suresh Kumar in Mizoram; Nidhi Srivastava in Orissa; SK Sharma and VK Janjua in Uttar Pradesh.

Haryana: MP Bansal and MR Anand in Andhra Pradesh; Des Raj Dhingra, Rajinder Paul Gupta and Neelam P Kasni in Bihar; Ashok Kumar Yadav and TK Sharma in Chattisgarh; Satwanti Ahlawat in Orissa; Vijay Singh and HS Malik in Uttar Pradesh.

Himachal Pradesh: JS Walia in Arunachal Pradesh; Anita Tegta in Assam; Subhashish Panda in Bihar; Rajinder Singh Negi in Chattisgarh; Ravinder Kumar Jain in Jharkhand; Ajay Mittal in Maharashtra; HS Chaudhary in Mizoram and BS Nainta in Orissa.

 

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Mulayam in soup for ‘threatening’ Mainpuri DM
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 24
Barely had the controversy regarding the Holi revelry settled down that Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is yet in another soup for threatening Mainpuri DM.

The Election Commission (EC) has suo moto received a report by the Mainpuri DM Ministhy Dileep along with a ‘statement of facts submited by Mainpuri ARO and a CD of the rally where Yadav reportedly made the threatening remarks against the DM.

According to Additional Chief Electoral Officer Amrit Abhijaat, the EC is looking at the material received and would soon take a decision.

According to reports, Yadav had said, “Behave yourself or watch out”. He is reportedly upset that she has cancelled the gun licenses to several of his party workers.

“I am not saying anything to you Madam DM, because you are a woman. I respect you because you are a woman. Better behave yourself. Mulayam Singh will fight elections from here and I will speak to the EC. If she doesn’t mend her ways within a week, let me know,” said Mulayam in his rally.

Notices have been issued to district units of the BJP and the RLD in Muzzafarnagar for allegedly violating the model code of conduct by distributing toffees with wrappers marked with the party symbols.

Following a complaint that RLD candidate allegedly distributed toffees with symbols of the RLD and the BJP imprinted on their wrappers, district authorities served notices on the two parties.

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PMK-UPA break up appears imminent
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 24
The saga of setbacks for the UPA continues, with Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) now preparing to break away from the alliance after seat-sharing talks with the Congress failed in Tamil Nadu. The PMK would be following in the RJD, the LJP and the SP’s footsteps if it abandoned the alliance.

Although Congress president Sonia Gandhi this morning downplayed the party’s latest heartburn, saying the alliance stood firm “as of the moment”, the parting only appears imminent, with PMK leader and Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss set to resign any time now.

Although Ramadoss quelled the rumours of his resignation from the Cabinet today (he even attended his office in Nirman Bhavan), he did not talk encouragingly about the Congress-PMK alliance as well.

Emerging from a 45-minute meeting with Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmad Patel, Ramadoss said, “We talked about the alliance but nothing is final yet. My party’s general council meeting on Thursday will take a final view on the matter.” The Health Minister was equally dismissive of his party’s purported alliance with the AIADMK.

“These are rumours. We have not yet worked out a strategy for the LS polls,” Ramadoss said. He was accompanied to the meeting by senior Tamil Nadu Congress leaders, including KV Thangkabalu.

Public posturing apart, the PMK’s break up with the Congress appears preordained, with reports that it has already forged an alliance with the AIADMK. The PMK had been seeking seven LS seats and a Rajya Sabha berth - something AIADMK chief Jayalalitha has reportedly agreed to offer. The DMK, for its part, was reluctant on this front, causing a crisis for the UPA in Tamil Nadu.

Meanwhile, the Congress is trying to retain the PMK, which has six LS seats. But the likelihood of such a situation is remote, considering PMK founder S Ramadoss has made up his mind to go with the AIADMK. An announcement to this effect is likely to be made on March 26 after PMK’s general council meets.

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Jaya taking U-turn on Lankan issue: Karunanidhi
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 24
Accusing AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa of following MDMK leader Vaiko’s Sri Lankan policy, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has alleged that she had taken a U-turn in the issue for electoral gains.

Pointing out that Jayalalithaa’s statement on Katchatheevu, an island acceded to Sri Lanka by the Union government in 1974, followed that of MDMK leader Vaiko on the same issue with similar contents, the DMK leader said the AIADMK leader was toeing the line of her ally on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue.

Recalling the Assembly resolution passed on April 16, 2002, when Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister, he said Jayalalithaa had called for the extradition of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran by passing a resolution to that effect.

But, now she was showing concern for Lankan Tamils and the retrieval of Katchatheevu only for electoral gains, Karunanidhi alleged. The AIADMK leader was silent when all parties in Tamil Nadu were holding rallies and protests demanding ceasefire in Sri Lanka and took a “pro-Sinhalese stand”, supporting the Sri Lankan government’s war against the LTTE, Karunanidhi said.

Denying that the DMK was silent when the Centre offered Katchatheevu to the island nation, he recalled his speech in the Assembly on June 27, 1974, opposing such a move.

The Chief Minister also blamed the Congress government under former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for acceding Katchatheevu without considering the opinion of the people of Tamil Nadu, during the emergency period.

If the reports of the Lankan government declaring Katchatheevu as a holy place were true, the Centre would initiate legal action against it, he added.

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BRIEFLY

Muslim student moves SC
NEW DELHI:
A class X Muslim student has moved the Supreme Court seeking quashing of a school regulation preventing him from sporting a beard, saying every citizen should be allowed to follow his religious beliefs. Mohammad Salim of Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School, a government-recognised minority institution in Madhya Pradesh, has sought quashing of the school regulation requiring students to be clean-shaven. Challenging the Madhya Pradesh High Court verdict that dismissed his plea, Salim submitted that every citizen was entitled to follow his religious principles and that no one should restrain him from doing so in a secular country like India.

Editor shot dead
Guwahati:
Unidentified gunmen tonight shot dead Anil Majumder, the Editor-in-Chief of a local Assamese daily ‘Aji’, who had been writing in favour of the ULFA coming for talks with the government. Majumder, in his late 30s, was shot dead by youths near his residence on Rajgarh Road, police sources said. Majumder was accosted by a seven-member unidentified group and fired at from point blank range while opening the gate of his residence on return from office.

Sangma moves SC
New Delhi:
Former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma and three other Meghalaya MLAs have moved the Supreme Court, challenging the imposition of President’s rule in their state on March 19.

Arsenic in potable water source
AGARTALA:
Panic gripped eastern Agartala following detection of high-level of poisonous arsenic at a potable water source here on Tuesday. Reportedly, one Priyatosh Sarkar brought the matter to the notice of the Tripura State Pollution Control Board (TSPCB) on Monday when three of his family members fell ill after drinking water from the source. “We have found arsenic content to be much higher than the permissible limits in the tube well of Sarkar but did not detect high content of arsenic in groundwater in the nearby areas. However, we brought some more samples for further investigation,” TSPCB chairman Prof Mihir Deb said. Source: Agencies

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